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Seyi Bakare: Palliatives – The Dapo Abiodun example

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PLENTY words, aver the Yoruba, do not fill a basket. And that is why during his press conference on palliatives at the Olusegun Osoba Press Centre, Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, last week, the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, stuck to his accustomed brevity underlined by clarity and resolve. Having surveyed the socioeconomic climate in the state, he announced a N5 billion intervention fund covering education, health, workers’ deductions and food palliative to cushion the corollaries of the rising cost of living and inflation. His words: “As our administration acknowledges the concerns raised by many of our citizens regarding the rising food prices and shortages, coupled with the depreciation of the naira, we identify with you and are taking proactive measures to alleviate the impact of these challenges to guarantee the welfare, well-being and wellness of our citizens in this difficult time. We aim to address these challenges by implementing a series of phased initiatives aimed at alleviating these burdens on all our citizens.”

The plan: providing a minimum of five exercise books for all 850,000 students in Ogun public primary and secondary schools, one-time N10,000 education support grant for at least 100,000 pupils in public primary and secondary schools in the state, an education grant of N50,000 each for all the 27,600 indigent students in tertiary institutions nationwide, insurance health cover for over 70,000 beneficiaries; free pre-natal care, an additional N5,000 per birth and free post-natal care in State Hospitals and Primary Health Care centres, and food palliatives for about 300,000 households across the state.

As it turned out, a television presenter who applauded the governor’s move after reading the news wanted to know how the distribution of food would be done. That is a legitimate question and here’s the answer: through the social register generated in the state during COVID-19. As COVID-19 raged, the state created a database of its vulnerable citizens, sent food to them and went ahead to monitor the distributors’ compliance by asking the intended beneficiaries directly if they had received the food. Excuses were not tolerated and the margin of error was slim. Indeed, former President Muhammadu Buhari was so impressed by the response of the Ogun State government to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of the provision of health facilities that he singled it out, along with Lagos, for special funding support.


All of this is not surprising: Dapo Abiodun is a visionary leader, and so his interventions are always hallmarked by the qualities of creativity, strategic risk-taking and growth mindset. According to Daniel Goleman, a leading authority on leadership, visionary leaders have bold ideas about the world around them. Against that backdrop, Dapo Abiodun being proactive and creative and constantly pushing himself and his team out of their comfort zone is only natural. Visionary leaders infect others with their passion and you have to be fit for purpose to remain in Abiodun’s team.

Abiodun it was who, in the wake of the removal of fuel subsidy, announced immediate payment of N10,000 to workers in Ogun State and the reduction of working days while the rest of the country was still embroiled in lamentations over the pains that attended subsidy removal. The story needs re-telling: long before President Tinubu announced the Federal Government’s decision to remove fuel subsidy in his May 29, 2023 inaugural address, the Ogun helmsman had anticipated the move and charted a data and science-driven course to ameliorate the impact on the populace. His roll out of a gas-powered public transport system, with the state’s wifi-enabled buses converted from PMS to gas-powered vehicles, was made with the thinking that public buses would cost much less if they were CNG rather than PMS-powered. That was not all: the governor and his team launched electric motorbikes and tricycles all over the state. Here’s what the governor said at the time: ” The initiative was clearly anticipated because we knew that the regulation of the downstream sector was imminent and unavoidable..We have two types of palliatives: cash transfer and technology transfer. If you buy food at controlled prices at designated areas, it saves a lot of money. If your transport cost is lower, your disposable income will be higher and the standard of living will consequently be better. Buses converted to CNG have been test-run and people will henceforth be refilling their vehicles at designated points.”

Local mechanics, a vital part of the conversion engineering, were trained, while conversion stations were set up in senatorial districts, allowing for the rapid conversion of commercial and public mass transit buses and vehicles across the state. The initiative provided training and job opportunities for thousands of technicians and mechanics around the state. Some of the buses were given to workers and students, while some plied the Mowe- Ibafo to Berger in Lagos and Redeemed axis to Lagos Island, a heavily congested corridor. The government engaged in bulk purchase of food and sold it at controlled prices, paid hazard allowance to health and medical personnel and peculiar allowance for public servants, paid leave bonuses to public servants, and gave immediate cash-backing for the quarterly payment of gratuities to pensioners; distributed food palliatives to vulnerable citizens while mandating the Gateway Trading Company to establish food distribution outlets across the state and sell the items at the rates obtainable in the market before the removal of fuel subsidy.

If the foregoing establishes any point, it is this: Ogun under Abiodun is always ahead of any other state in the area of people’s welfare. That is why now that things are getting out of hand, he has rolled out a strategy to keep Ogun State running. No doubt, the new N5bn intervention will have multiplier effects in the state. A tertiary education student with a N50,000 bonus at this time, and in addition to the normal bursary regime, has something to tide him/her over. Parents will have some relief. At the lower levels, parents can channel the funds that would have gone into the purchase of exercise books to other pressing needs, and they can certainly make do with the government’s food palliatives. It is great news that pregnant women and the elderly have a safety net. This is a pragmatic intervention.

No doubt, the situation in the country is critical, but staying aloof will make things worse. The Abiodun administration has come out forcefully to identify with the people, focused on its ISEYA mantra.

Bakare contributes this piece through [email protected]

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